Review: Lulu's Local Eatery in St. Louis
Lauren Loomis (aka Lulu) and her husband, Robbie Tucker, have turned a food truck into a thriving brick-and-mortar business and created an all-vegan menu of dishes that stick to your ribs. Would you believe they serve a vegan slinger? And that it’s fantastic? Even carnivores can leave this place full and happy.
Viva Las Vegans
Lulu’s shtick – vegan translations of popular dishes sourced as sustainably and locally as possible – wouldn’t work if it were serving fistfuls of sprouts chased by wheatgrass smoothies. Instead, a from-scratch ethos and creative cheffing has yielded satisfying soups, veggie burgers and the immensely popular sweet potato falafel. There is not a trace of meat, fish, eggs or dairy on the premises.
You've Got Kale
Naturally, Lulu’s offers a kale salad. The faddish green is tossed with cranberries, shredded carrots, walnut “Parmesan” (the nuts shredded into a fluff) and a maple-mustard vinaigrette. The dominant, tangy dressing alleviated the usual bitterness of kale. Simply put, this salad is good and good for you. An off-menu special, Thai carrot soup, was milkshake-thick, sweet from coconut milk and spicy from Sriracha. The soup’s garnish of chopped peanuts and cilantro completed the tasty Thai theme, though a little lime juice wouldn’t have hurt.
Eats for People Who Love to Eat
Volcano Tots are the vegan version of our town’s slayer of hangovers, the slinger. A huge mound of crunchy, golden-brown tater tots is topped with chili (made with red and black beans), sweet potatoes, tomatoes and quinoa. The mountain erupts with a ladleful of creamy butternut squash “cheese” sauce. The transformed squash has the molten texture of the real thing and gets high marks for effort, but it doesn’t exactly taste cheesy. The dish that put the Lulu’s truck on the map, sweet potato falafel, easily stands toe-to-toe with a chickpea version. The vibrant orange falafel balls offer a crunchy, fried exterior yielding to soft, moist sweet potato. House-made nondairy tzatziki sauce and veggies join the falafel in a soft, grilled pita for a party where every texture – crunchy, creamy, chewy – is in attendance. The sweet potato burger is similar to the falafel. The panko-breaded patty works inside a pretzel bun as well as falafel does on a pita. The Buffalo Blue Burger adds vegan “ranch” dressing (made with lemon, cucumber and eggless Vegenaise) and a creamy hot sauce to the thickly formed patty; if you can make a better vegan burger, we’d love to see it. The Portobello Philly Cheese was less successful. As a translation it’s a noble attempt, but mushrooms and squash don’t compare to the glory of real steak and cheese. The African peanut stew lacked a distinctive peanut butter flavor, dominated instead by carrot and sweet potato.
Local Drinks & Sweets
Though they come in interesting flavors like hibiscus-blackberry, the unsweetened artisanal ice teas concocted by the locals of Conscious Teas were blandly herbal and too astringent. Craft beers brewed by the likes of Urban Chestnut, 4 Hands and Schlafly are available. A Healthy Cookie dessert furnished by local bakery Whisk resembled a Clif or Mounds bar. It was tasty, but served cold from the fridge, which muted the flavors.
The Speed of Lunch
Lulu’s does fast-casual counter service. You order up front, runners deliver the food to your table, then disappear. It works well and probably helps diminish the lunchtime rush, which never seemed an ordeal. Employees were uniformly deferent and chipper.
Lulu’s vibrantly colored, locally sourced dishes aren’t just healthy; items like the Buffalo Blue Burger and Volcano Tots are delicious wintertime winners that will sate meat lovers, too. Score one for the vegans.
Lulu’s Local Eatery
3201 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 314.300.8215, luluslocaleatery.com